Saturday, August 24

The Power of One

NYC Engineer Wants to Help Homeless Man with Software Coding Classes. The article had me at "wants to help."

I'm not going to deconstruct the article. You can read it for yourself and come to your own conclusions. I'm not going to argue if the Patrick, the software engineer, should be focusing on food and housing rather than skills. Patrick offered Leo a choice and Leo made a decision. Honor that.

There is a proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

In my mind, Patrick is teaching Leo to fish. Even better, Patrick has given Leo the fishing rod, bait, and all of the other tools he will need to be a fisherman and is even teaching him how to cast and know where and when to cast. Good for him. Good for them.

What really struck me is the closing paragraph of this article:
I've tried to build products for the many before, but I wonder if this new generation is building projects for the power of one. . . .I am going to do a really good job with this guy. I will learn from him, maybe even more than he learns from me.
Habitat for Humanity came to mind. They build projects for the power of one. It may be one family, but they build one house at a time.  Through Kiva, I can make a microloan to a specific individual for a specific project. Through Donors Choose, I can contribute to a specific teacher in a specific classroom to meet a specific need.

I'm not sure what Patrick intended when he spoke of the "power of one." Maybe his power, maybe the power he was helping Leo achieve. It really doesn't matter.

We each have the power to help someone else, even if only in small ways. Sometimes the simplest gesture of help can make a difference in a person's attitude. You will probably never know the ripple effect of a kind gesture, a smile, a helping hand, a microloan, an offer to teach someone something. Never discount the size or impact of the difference you can make.

It's not really even about paying forward. I think it's more about being a civil, courteous, and contributing human being. It's about being kind. It's about recognizing the power you have as one person to make a difference in the world.